My mother and her twin sister will turn 85 years old on Saturday! We will celebrate BIG next weekend at Spring Mill State Park and Inn with them and as many of my siblings and cousins, and their children and grandchildren who can come—around forty of us this year.
Spring Mill is a delightfully picturesque place in southern Indiana. Just driving through the lush, green forested park makes me feel happy and at peace. The Inn itself is old and rustic, lovely and relaxing, and has been the scene of many of our large clan’s family reunions. The twins’ birthday luncheon will be held on Sunday in the beautiful Lakeview Room. We will share in good food and birthday cake, fun games, lots of laughter and sweet memories.
Most of all, though, there will be a spirit of thanksgiving permeating the room as we honor our beautiful mothers. Heartfelt thankfulness to God that we still have both of them with us and that they are able to travel to this special event in their honor. Deepest gratitude for all that they have done for us and been to us through the many years we have been together. True appreciation for the godly examples they have been to their children and grandmothers and for the spiritual heritage they have left for us.
We first did this big Spring Mill celebration of their birthdays five years ago for their 80th. This morning I re-read the account I wrote of that event back then. I’d like to share it with you today because I do not think I could give you a better picture of my mom and Aunt Bonnie if I tried, or what our gala will look like next week. So here, from the archives dated September 12, 2010, is “Great Ladies in Their Eighties.”
It was a weekend to remember! In my mother’s words, no other weekend could ever surpass it. My aunt (my mother’s twin sister) told me it was her best birthday ever. “Bonnie and Connie’s 80th Birthday Party” at Spring Mill State Park in Indiana was a huge success, especially for the Birthday Girls. Almost all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there to celebrate with them—over fifty of us altogether. We were happy for our mothers, and excited about spending the weekend with our siblings and cousins and their families.
It is a wonderful thing to see twin sisters make it to their eightieth birthday together. We’ve always enjoyed seeing them together (and yes, indeed, they fooled us sometimes as to who was who), but now they’re just downright cute as a pair! All weekend long we remarked at the likenesses and funny little traits they shared.
Sunday was their birthday and we had a special luncheon to honor them. The Lakeview Room looked out on a forest, rather than a lake, but it was pretty with its tables decked in pastels, a fully loaded gift table, and the cake with their pictures at age sixteen as the centerpiece. The food from the Inn’s special Sunday buffet was delicious and plentiful. The company was relaxed, and the fellowship was sweet, and both our Birthday Girls were beaming!
We could not let this special day go by without some spontaneous tributes given by their children, grandchildren and children-in-law. My brother called them the “grand matriarchs of the clan.” Their reputation as pranksters was mentioned. Their love, encouragement, help and generosity were appreciated. They were lauded as wonderful mothers, best friends, special grandmas, and over and over—the best mothers-in-law there ever were! I think what struck me most, however, about these heartfelt, sometimes-teary and sometimes-comical sentiments was how many times Mom and Aunt Bon were referred to as women of faith and prayer. The spiritual heritage they have laid down and their prayerful support of their children and grandchildren had made an impact in all our lives, and helped to make us the people we have become—for now and all eternity. They have been found faithful in the calling God has given them as wives and mothers, and we are all eternally grateful and love them deeply. Proverbs 31:28-31 fits them perfectly: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:28-31)
It is hard to see our parents growing older. We see them slowing down, suffering from more and more physical ailments, sometimes even suffering mental disabilities. And always looming overhead is the knowledge that we may not have many more years left with them. For those who know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we know that the Separator called Death is but for a short time and then we will be reunited in Heaven some day, but still it is a grievous day when we have to say goodbye. We treasure the days we have left with our mothers and pray for many more years of good health to come.
The Bible tells us to honor our parents and those elderly people around us. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Ephesians 6:2-3 reminds us of one of the Ten Commandments: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou may live long on the earth.” Proverbs 23:22 tells us to “Hearken unto thy father that begot thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”
Although it may not feel like it sometimes, old age is something to be proud of, and a blessing from the Lord. Many times the Scriptures speak of old age as “a good old age.” And although I have sworn to cover my gray hairs until the day I die (!) gray hair is a badge of honor! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” and Proverbs 20:29 adds, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I still have my gray hair, of course, hidden somewhere—I just refuse to look older than my husband!
* With old age come many blessings. Mom and Aunt Bon would tell you (and I agree!) the greatest of these are our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You just can’t comprehend how wonderful it is to be a grandma until you become one yourself! Someone has said that “being a grandmother is your reward for having been a mother.” Someone else has said, “Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.” Whether or not we’ve earned them, the Bible says in Proverbs 17:6, “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]”
Hopefully, with old age comes wisdom. Job 12:12 tells us “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.” and Job 32:7 adds “…days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.” Old age also comes with promises. Isaiah 46:4 tells us that God does not forget us in our old age, but will carry us through: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” He is faithful in providing. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)
God also tells us that He does not set us on a shelf in our old age but that there is still work for Him that we can do. Psalms 92:14 says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age …” The elderly are to be examples of holy living and teachers. “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” (Titus 2:2, 3) Prayer and intercession are vital ministries the aged can have. 1 Timothy 5:5 says “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” The elderly are also a testimony to the generations that follow. Psalms 71:18 tells us, “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Eunice and Lois are examples of the impact we can have on our children and grandchildren. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
It is God who determines the length of our lives. Job 12:10 says, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Oftentimes he blesses the righteous and those who are obedient to Him with long life. He said of David in Psalms 91:14, 16, “Because he hath set his love upon me … because he hath known my name…. With long life will I satisfy him…” 1 Kings 3:14 also says, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments … I will lengthen thy days.” Proverbs 3:1, 2 tells us to “… keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” and adds in Proverbs 9:10, 11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”
Psalm 92:12-14 gives us a picture of the beauty of old age in those who love the Lord. It says, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He [or she] shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” I see beauty in my mother and Aunt Bon, and I know the Lord does, too. What a testimony they are to lives lived for Him and for their families! Many years ago I sent a poem to my grandmother—their mother. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for it describes my mother and my dear aunt Bonnie—lovely in growing old. I hope I will follow in their footsteps.
Let me grow lovely, growing old—
So many fine things do:
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?
The last five years have held serious health problems for both my mother and Aunt Bon, but they are both still sharp as can be and able to live on their own. We cherish the times we have with them, the laughs we share, and the memories we are making. May God continue to bless them in the years they have left here, as He has throughout their long lives—and as He has blessed us in just having them in our lives!
There will be no Sundays with Cindy next week. I’ll be at Spring Mill partying with a couple of great ladies in their eighties!